MADISON – Make it three for three.
Glenwood City capped a Cinderella post-season with yet another dominate second-half performance, this one in the WIAA Division 7 State Football Championship Thursday, November 15 at Camp Randall in Madison, to capture the school’s third state football crown in as many tries. For a third consecutive week, the Hilltoppers overcame a two-point halftime deficit with a smothering defense and explosive offense to run away with the win and the gold football thanks to a 46-21 victory over previously unbeaten and third-ranked Potosi.
Glenwood City, which finished with an 11-2 mark and a seven-game winning streak, now has another gold trophy to place next to the championship trophies won by the 1985 gridders (that squad also finished 11-2) and the undefeated (14-0) team of 1997.
The championship also demonstrated a remarkable one-year turnaround for the Hilltoppers, who finished just 1-8 in 2011.
“That was a long year for us,” said Glenwood City’s fourth-year head coach Shane Strong. “It wasn’t because they didn’t work hard, we were a young club and they really battled through it this year. I think we were picked for last place in our conference and rightfully so because we didn’t prove anything last year. And to come out and play like this is unbelievable.”
Glenwood City rewrote the record books several times over last Thursday as it’s ground attack was nearly unstoppable. The Hilltoppers rang up a record 465 yards rushing on the Potosi Chieftains and posted 34 second-half points in the win. Junior running back Isaac Tuttle, despite playing with a broken hand, shined on the artificial turf of Camp Randall. Tuttle ran for 195 yards on 21 carries and four touchdowns – 8, 20, 46, and 19 yards – to led the Toppers’ running attack. Senior teammate and back Adam Holmquist also enjoyed a banner game and cap to his prep football career as he eclipsed the century mark with 149 yards and a touchdown on 30 hauls. Quarterback Nick Mrdutt added 69 yards and Jeff Kopacz tallied 58 yards; both also had a touchdown.
“All year we have had two goals – to have great attitude and great effort,” said coach Shane Strong. “We felt in the first half that we had some plays where we had some letdowns in effort.”
“We run an option style offense, and sometimes we come into a game and are not sure how the team is going to defend us,” said Strong.
Glenwood City was the first to push the ball into the end zone. Adam Holmquist’s two-yard dive across the goal line at 6:16 of the first quarter capped a 14-play, 69 yard drive and gave the Hilltoppers a 6-0 lead. The 2-point conversion failed.
Potosi would answer quickly as it took a short Glenwood City kickoff at the Toppers’ 45 and put it into the end zone for six on a two-yard run by Chieftains quarterback Tim Fritz in just 8 plays and 3:10.
The game would remain deadlocked until two-thirds of the way through quarter number two. That is when Potosi took advantage of great field position at the Glenwood City 33 following a short punt and quickly turned it into six points.
Chieftains’ running back Alex Wright took the first-down hand off, cut right and then slashed to his left cutting through the GC defense and ran untouched for the 33-yard score at 4:11. Wright would also run in the two-point conversion to give Potosi its first and only lead of the game at 14-6.
But as it has the previous two weeks, Glenwood City would respond with a touchdown drive to close out the first half. It took the Toppers just two minutes and 22 seconds to and six plays to get to pay dirt. Isaac ran for a pair of eight-yard runs the latter which pulled the Toppers to within a pair of points at 14-12. The run for the conversion and tie failed and the Hilltoppers trailed at the half.
“In the second half we adjusted based on what Potosi showed us in the first half and that really paid off for us,” said Coach Strong.
“We really didn’t make any adjustments on our power game,” said Strong. “The thing is with our option when a team is playing assignment football against us on our option then we come back to our power game and its tough to defend both.”
“I think we kind of wore them down there up on the front line and then when Tuttle gets just a little bit of a crease, he makes some big time plays,” added Strong.
Glenwood’s defense set the tone for the second-half emergence. It forced Potosi to punt after three plays and then the Hilltoppers’ offensive unit went to work in a big way.
Glenwood City moved methodically downfield from its own 28 to the Potosi 35 where Toppers’ quarterback Nick Mrdutt broke free and rambled 35 yards for the touchdown to cap a seven play 72 yard drive. Despite the missed conversion pass, Glenwood City had forged into the lead at 18-14 and would not look back.
Glenwood City would hold Potosi’s high-octane offense in neutral while the Toppers’ offense reeled off scores on its next two possessions of the third quarter. Isaac Tuttle could not be caught as he ran for touchdowns of 20 and 46 yards in the third frame. Adam Holmquist tacked on a pair of extra point runs and the Toppers were in command 34-14 as the state championship game headed into its final 12 minutes.
Tim Fritz would lead Potosi on a 65-yard drive that he capped with a nine-yard scoring strike to Mitchell Langkamp at 10:19. Fritz tacked on the PAT kick to make it 34-21.
But the Chieftains would get no closer in their inaugural visit to the championship game.
Jeff Kopacz would finish off a 79-yard Hilltopper drive with a four yard run into the end zone at 5:50 to make it 40-21.
Just 16 seconds later, Adam Holmquist picked off a Fritz’ pass to put the Toppers on the offensive once again.
It would take the Blue and White crew just 1:53 to find pay dirt for the seventh time as Isaac Tuttle twisted and turned his way for a unbelievable 19-yard touchdown run – his fourth of the game – to cap the game’s scoring with the Toppers on top 46-21.
That is how it ended 3:41 later and the celebration was on as players and coaches flooded the mid-field area to share hugs and congratulations just prior to the teams’ handshakes.
The drive home was a joyous one. When the team’s motor coach turned the corner of State Road 128 on to Oak Street, led by Police and trailed by fire trucks and several dozen other vehicles, it was greeted with fans and well wishers lining the street. With sirens wailing, horns blowing, and the crowd cheering the team proceeded down Oak, then slowly back up Pine Street, before turning down Maple Street en route to the high school where hundreds were waiting to greet their 2012 WIAA Division 7 State Champion Hilltoppers!